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Far Flung Families

Far Flung Families

This research project, for which Daniela Berghahn was awarded an AHRC Research Fellowship, makes a pioneering contribution to transnational film studies offers the first systematic study of the diasporic family in contemporary European cinema. Focusing on the most established diasporic film cultures in Europe, Black and Asian British, Maghrebi French and Turkish German, the project examines some seventy key films made between the mid-1980s and the present. These films have evolved from migration movements from Europe’s former colonies to imperial ‘mother countries’ and other labour migrations since the 1950s. The shift from primary migration to family reunion in the 1970s turned temporary immigrants into permanent settlers. Without family migration the kind of diasporic film culture that emerged when second-generation immigrant filmmakers came of age and gained access to the means of film production, could never have come into existence. Many diasporic family films draw on the filmmakers’ own experience of being born or raised in the country to which their parents migrated. 

As Daniela Berghahn outlines in her monograph Far-Flung Families in Film: The Diasporic Family in Contemporary European Cinema (Edinburgh UP, 2013) contrast to films by first-generation immigrant or majority culture filmmakers, which are often based on racialised dichotomies, more recent examples of diasporic family films tend to privilege dialogism and cultural hybridity. They critically interrogate the relationship between the margin and the centre and call dominant Eurocentric assumptions about majority and minority cultures, Europe and its others, into question. Inter-ethnic marriages, the formation of alternative families based on elective affinities instead of bloodline and descent and the ‘coming out’ of queer diasporic sons and daughters, are prominent themes that challenge an essentialist understanding of identity. 

The films’ diasporic optic, borne out of the filmmakers’ multiple affiliations and ambivalent sense of belonging, manifests itself in the hybridization of generic conventions, narrative and musical traditions, languages and performance styles that fuse aesthetic traditions from more than one (film)culture. These innovative aesthetics, coupled with the universal appeal of family stories, is an important strategy that has enabled a number of diasporic family films, in particular comedies, to break out of the ethnic niche and into the mainstream. 

The project website Far-Flung Families in Film documents Daniela Berghahn’s research on cinematic representations of diasporic families and offers a wealth of resources, including podcasts of interviews and panel discussions with filmmakers, conference presentations and a list of relevant films. 

 

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